Wines of Texas

Texas is the 5th largest producer of wine in the United States, but most of it never leaves the state. The Texas wine industry is still, shall we say, young (despite the long pre-Prohibition history), but they have been making tremendous strides lately and within a decade or two should be quite competitive on the world market (barring Texas' antiquated liquor laws).

Incidentally, the American rootstock grafts that saved European vines from phylloxera in the 19th century came from Texas.

What's out yonder in Texas?

There are, depending on how you count it, six or seven federally recognized areas in Texas.

  • Texas Hill Country, west of Austin and San Antonio, is a large region and is arguably the best.
  • Fredericksburg, is a subregion of Hill Country and lies right in the middle of it.
  • Bell Mountain, is also in Hill Country and is near Fredericksburg
  • Escondido Valley (Trans-Pecos), is near Ft. Stockton in southwest Texas
  • Texas High Plains, lies west of Lubbock to the New Mexico border
  • Texas Davis Mountains, near Ft. Davis
  • Mesilla Valley, near El Paso, is shared with New Mexico and is mostly a New Mexico region

Well over half of the fine wine action in Texas lives within a short drive of Austin and San Antonio in the Hill Country.

Lone Star Pride

In my opinion, Texas wines are where California was forty years ago. The climate is friendly and the land is good, but vines take time and winemakers need time to develop experience with the land. Many Texan wines are quite competitive with internationally marketed midrange wines already, and we expect only further improvement in the future.

It is not yet clear which varietals fare best in Texas. The classic varietals have met with varied success. The Cabernets and Merlots come off as very big or very fruity. The more unusual varietals and Rhone varietals have been well received and hold great promise. Ultimately, time will tell.

Wine Comments

White Driftwood Estate, "Cuve Blanc" 2008 (Texas Hill Country)
16 June 2010 Bright citrus and tropical fruit with a hint of grass on the finish. Bracingly crisp. Label does not name the component grapes but I am told that it contains at least chardonnay, chenin blanc, viognier, and maybe a couple others.
$20 / bottle
White Becker Vineyards, Viognier 2001 (Texas Hill Country)
2003 Very round peach and dried apricot fruit. Lightly sweet and slick tasting, with earthy and floral tones. Playful.
$14 / bottle
White Woodrose Winery, Viognier 2007 (USA)
15 August 2009 Exuberant peach and other tropical fruits. Bracingly crisp and slightly heady.
$18 / bottle
White Dry Comal Creek, French Colombard Demi-Sweet 2006 (unknown)
14 July 2008 Bright citrus and peach, with round white grape jelly and a crisp finish.
$17 / bottle
White Llano Estacado, "Vintner's Selection" Muscat Canelli NV (USA)
2004 Very sweet, with bold honeysuckle and melon, with a touch of spice. Round and plump. Sugary finish.
$9 / bottle
White Messina Hof, "26th Anniversary" Pinot Grigio 2003 (USA)
?? Heavy and fat, brightness of fruit muted by wood. Long finish.
$9 / bottle
White Becker Vineyards, Fume Blanc 2002 (Texas Hill Country)
25 June 2006 Fat with heavy oak, suppressed fruit, creamy texture.
$10 / bottle
White Sister Creek Vineyards, Muscat Canelli 2006 (USA)
22 April 2009 Rich sweet apricot and clover honey with the faintest hint of orange on the finish. Heavy mouthfeel. Quite sweet.
$13 / bottle
White Sister Creek Vineyards, Muscat Canelli Reserve 2007 (USA)
14 February 2010 Rich, sweet, and full-bodied. Bold peach and apricot with a strong hint of spiciness on the nose and finish. Zesty.
$17 / bottle
White Fall Creek Vineyards, Johannisberg Riesling NV (USA)
8 October 2004 Sharp apricot flavor and sweet texture. Short finish and a bit simple.
$8 / bottle
White Fredericksburg Winery, Diamante Doble Vineyards Dry Gewurztraminer 2006 (Texas)
25 March 2010 Off-dry with lots of plump fruit, with sharp apricot and honey notes. Spicy even for a gewurztraminer.
$?? / bottle
White Flat Creek Estate, Moscato Blanco 2005 (Texas Hill Country)
27 August 2008 Sweet and intense pears and apricots with light hints of nectar and tangerine. Smooth and not sticky.
$16 / 500ml
White Becker Vineyards, "Clementine" Late Harvest Viognier 2005 (USA)
19 March 2010 Intense peach, apricot, and citrus fruit over ample sweetness. A fruit cup in a glass.
$15 / 375ml
White Fredericksburg Winery, Newsom Vineyard Late Harvest "Vintner's Select Reserve" Orange Muscat 2002 (Texas High Plains)
30 April 2010 Bright and crisp peach, apricot, and oranges. Sweet but not at all sticky.
$?? / 375ml
White Texas Hills Vineyard, "Newsom Vineyard" Orange Moscato 2006 (Texas High Plains)
28 June 2011 Ripe melons, honey, peach, nectar, and jelly. Spicy finish. Plumper and rounder mouthfeel.
$20 / 500ml
White Texas Hills Vineyard, "Newsom Vineyard" Orange Moscato 2005 (Texas)
11 September 2008 Sharp and racy with abundant citrus and spicy nectar. Crisp and not at all syrupy. Very high acid.
$18 / 500ml
White Texas Hills Vineyard, "Newsom Vineyard" Orange Moscato 2003 (Texas)
27 August 2006 Sweet peaches and apricot, mild citrus, honey, high acid. Tasty.
$16 / 500ml
White Messina Hof, 25th Anniversary "Angel" Johannisberg Riesling Late Harvest 2002 (Texas)
11 June 2004 Very floral with somewhat simplistic fruit. Full for a Riesling but light for a Late Harvest. Decent.
$15 / bottle
White Fall Creek Vineyards, Chenin Blanc 2009 (Texas)
8 July 2010 Plump melon, honey, and citrus. Off-dry with a buttery mouthfeel.
$7 / bottle
White Fall Creek Vineyards, Chenin Blanc 2003 (Texas)
25 May 2004 Tangerine, pineapple, and peach over tropical fruits and melons. Off-dry, buttery texture.
$5.50 / bottle
Rose Grape Creek Vineyards, "Cabernet Blanc" 2006 (USA)
11 May 2009 Off-dry dark berries with a very crisp structure and smooth mouthfeel. Very well-balanced. Rose from Cabernet Sauvignon.
$15 / bottle
Rose Fredericksburg Winery, "Balanced Rock" Sweet Rose NV (Texas)
6 May 2009 Sweet Jello strawberry flavors with odd chemical notes in the finish. Off-balanced.
$?? / bottle
Rose Woodrose Winery, Rose of Sangiovese 2007 (Texas)
5 October 2008 Smooth grape and citrus with a hint of berries. Dry and very crisp with a slight grape jelly finish. Tasty.
$18 / bottle
Rose Torre di Pietra, "Rosa Flamenco" NV (Texas)
20 August 2008 Fruity, with flavors of fresh apples and bananas. Off-dry.
$20 / bottle
Red Fredericksburg Winery, "Texitage" 2003 (Texas)
11 August 2008 Fruit-forward, with dark musky notes and heavy vanilla wood. A mix of slight tartness and sweetness on the finish.
$?? / bottle
Red Messina Hof, "Barrel Reserve" Cabernet Franc 2007 (Texas)
18 December 2009 Fruity sour cherries with light fragrant wood. Medium-bodied.
$9 / bottle
Red Torre di Pietra, Claret 2005 (Texas)
29 May 2010 Bright tart fruit with cherry and oak, but very light wood. Slight tobacco notes. More like a Rhone-style wine done with claret grapes. Thin tannins.
$25 / bottle
Red Grape Creek Vineyards, "Cabernet Trois" 2006 (USA)
16 August 2008 Restrained berry fruit with the slightest hint of smoke and peppers. Moderate wood and well-balanced tannins with potpourri and tobacco. Tasty and very French-styled. Made from the Cabernets Sauvignon, Franc, and Ruby.
$20 / bottle
Red Grape Creek Vineyards, "Mosaic" 2004 (USA)
5 December 2008 Heavy wood and smoke essences with plump but restrained fruit and young tannins. Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc.
$33 / bottle
Red Texas Hills Vineyard "Cinque" Vino Rosse 2004 (Hill Country)
4 August 2008 Extremely tart and bold with spicy plums and potent tannins. Very heady. Blend of Cabernet (31.6%), Merlot (30.4%), Ruby Cabernet (22.8%), Sangiovese (12.5%), Syrah (2.7%).
$13 / bottle
Red Becker Vineyards, Reserve Cabernet-Syrah 2006 (Texas)
29 April 2010 Juicy and fruity, with tart potpourri. Lots of "heat."
$22 / bottle
Red Becker Vineyards, "Tallent Vineyard" Grenache 2006 (Texas)
8 August 2009 Robust fruit with strong sour cherry flavors over moderate tobacco and wood. Tasty.
$17 / bottle
Red Becker Vineyards, Zinfandel 2005 (USA)
25 July 2008 Elegant jammy and plummy fruit with moderate wood. Well-balanced tannins and exceptionally smooth. Impressive and delicious.
$18 / bottle
Red Becker Vineyards, Granite Hill Vineyard Reserve Merlot 2005 (Texas Hill Country)
1 August 2009 Dark, rich fruit, with abundant wood, potpourri, and leather notes. Very heady and robust.
$22 / bottle
Red Mandola, Sangiovese 2007 (Texas)
12 May 2010 Slightly tart and young fruit, medium body with very smooth mouthfeel. Slight hints of jello in the finish. Very easy drinking.
$24 / bottle
Red Mandola, "Canto Felice" NV (Texas)
30 May 2010 Off-dry to slightly sweet fruit with moderate tannin. Tons of cherries, strawberries, and grape. Fun and guaranteed to be a crowd pleaser for Average Joes and oeneophiles alike!
$18 / bottle
Red Mandola, Dolcetto 2007 (Texas)
12 May 2010 Sweet and fruity nose. Off-dry, with dark and tannic raspberries.
$10 / bottle
Red Mandola, "Spino" Montepulciano 2007 (Texas)
2009 Deeply perfumed nose and flavors, with abundant incense over dark berry fruit. Tasty.
$26 / bottle
Red Driftwood Vineyards, Syrah 2006 (Texas Hill Country)
10 May 2010 Slightly perfumed nose with lush fruit. Nice chewy tannins and a very "hot" finish that echoes back the perfume on the nose. Very well-balanced but very high alcohol (14.5%).
$18 / bottle
Red Driftwood Vineyards, "Super Texan" Sangiovese 2006 (Texas Hill Country)
19 June 2010 Bright and fruity, with an extremely heady feel (15% alcohol) and bold flavors. Unsubtle and powerful.
$18 / bottle
Red Driftwood Vineyards, "Longhorn Red" Cabernet/Syrah 60/40 2006 (Texas Hill Country)
17 March 2009 Dry, almost astringent, with peppery and extremely jammy fruit. A touch spicy.
$18 / bottle
Red Driftwood Vineyards, "Lone Star Cab" Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 (Texas Hill Country)
17 March 2009 Big cherries with moderate wood. Drying mouthfeel. Overly powerful and lacking in subtlety at this age; could benefit from a few more years.
$18 / bottle
Red Sister Creek Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon 39% / Merlot 23% / Cabernet Franc 22% / Petit Verdot 16% Reserve 2006 (USA)
13 September 2008 Bright and fruity with soft tannins and abundant wood. Plentiful cherry, currant, and smoke with good mouthfeel.
$30 / bottle
Red Fredericksburg Winery, "Baron's Bach Burgundy" NV (Texas)
20 January 2009 Bursting with semi-sweet jammy fruit with hints of chocolate, cherries, and currant, with a slight jelly-like finish. Fun.
$?? / bottle
Red Texas Hills Vineyard, "Kick Butt Cab" Newsom Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 (Texas High Plains)
25 April 2010 Bold and powerful tannins, with zippy fruit and good chocolate, jam, pepper, and chili. Not subtle.
$25 / bottle
Red Torre di Pietra, "Amore de Tuscano" Super Tuscan 2005 (Texas)
26 May 2009 Huge berry and plum fruit with heavy vanilla and oak. Velvety smooth. Heady and very tasty.
$30 / bottle
Red Torre di Pietra, "Amore de Tuscano" Super Tuscan 2005 (Texas)
26 May 2009 Huge berry and plum fruit with heavy vanilla and oak. Velvety smooth. Heady and very tasty.
$30 / bottle
Red Cap Rock, "Palo Duro Canyon" Red NV (USA)
16 July 2008 Very dry with muted fruit and muddled oak. Somewhat heady and astringent. Grapes from California, 85/15 Merlot/Cab, released 2007.
$13 / bottle
Red Peregrine Hill, Merlot 2001 (Texas)
15 February 2005 Heavy aged tannins and stems over wood spice. Minimal fruit. Drink young.
$8 / bottle
Red Becker Vineyards, "les trois dames" Claret 2003 (Texas)
8 May 2005 Dark, rich berry, smooth and abundant wood, heady, bold, and strong.
$15 / bottle
Red Fall Creek Vineyards, "Granite Reserve" Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 (Texas)
29 September 2004 Very plump and fruity with moderate wood. Young, with bright and lively mouthfeel.
$9 / bottle
Red Twin Springs, Sweet Red NV
2 September 2004 Plump, sweet grape, apricot, peach, and cherry. Tastes like white wine and cherry Kool-Aid. No tannin, soft, decently pleasant.
$6 / bottle
Red Sister Creek Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon 60% / Merlot 28% / Cabernet Franc 12% 2001 (Texas)
7 October 2003 Smooth, with heavy toast and vanilla over wood spice, with slight touches of leather and musk. Sweet plum finish. Bordeaux style.
$15 / bottle
Red Alamosa Wine Cellars, "Tio Pancho Ranch" Sangiovese 2000 (Texas Hill Country)
19 April 2004 Big and tannic, with very little fruit and faint hints of chocolate. Minimal wood. Overly harsh.
$13 / bottle
Red Becker Vineyards, "Texas Iconoclast" Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 (Texas)
2004 Bloody and thick, very forward. Plump palate with chocolate, tar, and smoke. Long, chewy, and slightly astringent finish. Big as Texas, but almost Australian in style.
$10 / bottle
Red Sister Creek Vineyards, Pinot Noir 1999 (Texas)
27 July 2004 Dark, very restrained fruit, with grapeskin and jelly. Smooth but not soft.
$16 / bottle
Fortified Fredericksburg Winery, "Port Carlshafen" NV (Texas)
August 2010 Sweet prunes and cassis. Rich and heady.
$?? / bottle
Fortified Texas Hills Vineyard, "Port Bianco" White Port 2001 (USA)
22 August 2008 Spicy honey, lavender, and exuberant flowers. Powerful and heady.
$16 / 500ml